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Education without borders: international trade in education

21 Mar 2007

Across the world, more people than ever before are undertaking an international education. This report looks at the major factors contributing to the emergence of the global education market and finds that, more than any other region, Asia continues to shape global demand. As populations grow and national incomes increase, countries in Asia are both investing more in domestic higher education and turning to international education to help meet surging demand for student places. Australia’s institutions are taking increasing numbers of international students and are establishing campuses offshore. International trade negotiations are liberalising services trade and contributing to the emergence of a borderless market for international education.

KEY POINTS (from page 1)

• The total number of students undertaking courses outside their home countries has almost doubled since 1980.

• The growth of the global higher education market will continue to be driven by demand from Asia.

• Private higher education and the encouragement of international education are important means by which developing and middle-income countries can expand capacity in higher education.

• The export of higher education is also policy driven. Recent policy drivers in some high-income countries that are active in the promotion of trade in education include accepting full-fee paying students from overseas to supplement skilled immigration and to generate revenue for local universities.

• The United States is the largest supplier of international education; however, in Asia, Australia and the United Kingdom are providing growing competition to American institutions.

• Education features in current negotiations under the General Agreement on Trade in Services in the World Trade Organization. The Agreement has the potential to have a significant effect on trade in education.

• Mutual recognition of qualifications earned through international study is an important issue that multilateral and bilateral trade negotiations aim to address.

• International and national quality assurance frameworks are critical to ensuring that qualifications earned abroad or from foreign affiliate institutions located in students’ home countries are recognised domestically.

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